By Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike
I wish to express my heartfelt thanks for the invitation to participate in the 13th edition of the All Nigeria Editors’ Conference by sharing some our thoughts with you and to declare it open.
Having hosted the 12th edition, I was not expecting to host another of your conference anytime soon, at least not in the life of our administration.I was therefore surprised when the President of the Guilds, Mrs. FunkeEgbemode approached me with your resolution and requested for support to hold thisconference, yet again in Port Harcourt.
Although I was initially hesitant for obvious reasons. But, as a State Governor and one of the leading opposition figures in this country, it would be abnormal for me to jump at such a rare opportunity to meet with the doyens of the mediaof this country. I therefore immediately accepted to host this conference consecutively in two years.
Let me therefore, on behalf of the government and good people of Rivers State welcome you, once again to Port Harcourt, the garden city, for the 2017 All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC).
As I have always said, we welcome conferences in Rivers State for a variety of reasons. But, what is more compelling is the fact that no one can be a better emissary of the State than our visitors.
When you visit us, particularly in organized social platforms, you will have the opportunity to interact with our people, visit any locality of your choice, see and assess things for yourself.
At the end, you return to your destinations with your personal observations, experiences and knowledge about the people, the environment, the opportunities and the challenges. Of course, nobody can educated you again on things you have seen with your own eyes or the impressions you have made from personal experiences.
When you visited last year, we took you on a tour of some of our project sites to enable you have first-hand information about the projects we have initiated to advance the development of the State and the wellbeing of our people.
I am glad you are going to undertake this tour, once again to see and evaluate what we have additionally accomplished since your last visit.
When you undertake the tour, you will see the projects we’ve accomplished across the different priority areas, particularly, on road infrastructure, healthcare, education and security.
You will see that we have since reconstructed almost all the bad roads in Port Harcourt city, including the ones in Diobu, mile one to mile three, Port Harcourt Township, old and new Government Reservation Areas, Harold Wilson Drive, Borokiri, D/Line, Oro-Worokwo, Ogbunabali, Nkporgu, Dr. Peter Odili road and other neighbourhoods of the State capital.
You will also see the intra, inter-city and inter-local government Area roads we have either completed or are ongoing. For instance, you will see completed or on going road projects in Abua/Odual, Akuku Toru Andoni, Etche, Ikwerre, OkrikaObio/Akpor, Emohua, Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas of the State.
You will further see our efforts in healthcare delivery. You will see that we have comprehensively reconstructed general hospitals in Abua, Nchia, Isiokpo, Rumuigbo, Abonnema, Bodo city, Opobo, Eberi-Omuma, Ngo, Emohua, Buguma and Okrika towns and communities across the State.
You will also notice that we have remobilized contractors to work on the mother and child hospital and three of the four regional hospitals started and abandoned by the previous administration.
You will also see several other projects that are already in use, including the Port Harcourt ultramodern Pleasure Park, the Okrika jetty, the Ecumenical Centre, and the Port Harcourt NBA Law Centre complex.
Again, you will also notice that we have initiated some new projects you did not see during your first visit, including the construction of internal roads and land reclamation in Emohua, Ikwerre, Asari Toru, Okirika, Degema Local Government Areas and the renovation of 185 basic education schools across the State.
I encourage you to get copies of the two accountability documents that we have issued this year titled: The Mid-Term Report and Mr. Projectsto enable you to verify our claims and assess our performance against the current economic reality where most of the States are finding it very difficult to pay salaries, let alone fund major development projects.
It is important to emphasize that we are not competing with anybody or any other State for laurels or for anything. We are simply doing our job as mandated by the good people of Rivers State and we are both grateful and encouraged by the outpourings of support and affection from our people.
Furthermore, we are in a democracy and so we do fully acknowledge and respect the right of the opposition to criticize us as much as they can, but this right ought to be exercised in good faith and with all sense of responsibility.
However, instead of projecting their relevance, if any, with alternative policies and programmes, the political opposition continues to live in denial of our achievements within two years as against the complete mess they left behind after being in power for eight unbroken years.
For goodness sake, how do we compare? They viciously closed down the courts for no good reason and subjected every one of us in Rivers State to suffer the consequences of their obnoxious action for nearly two years.
Now the courts are not only functioning; we have done what no other government has done in this country to strengthen the administration of justice. Yet, in their polluted sense of judgment, we are not performing?
When they were here, several businesses and investors closed shops and relocated from the State because of unrelenting security challenges, which they failed woefully to tackle.
But, today, the security situation is clearly riding on a positive note. Rivers State now counts as one of the most peaceful, secure and safe States in the country as a direct result of our commitment and unprecedented material support we have been giving tothe security agencies to execute their responsibility of protecting lives and property.
We are all aware that even in the height of militancy by Niger Delta youths, not even a single oil facility was attacked, occupied or shut downin Rivers State because of the measures we put in place in conjunction with the security agencies to ensure security for all the vital national economic assets located in the State.
Therefore, when a supposed opposition goes beyond the bonds of decency in conjuring lies to rubbish and undermine every effortof ours to serve and advance the progress of the State, then the media owes society the duty to investigate and expose their mischievous intentions with the facts at their disposal.
At any rate, those who live in glass houses, they say, should avoid throwing stones. As our representatives in the Federal Government, are they not responsible for attracting development projects to Rivers State?
Why are they so comfortable with the neglect and marginalization of the State by the Federal Government? Why are they not agitated over the poor state of the East – West road, the neglect of our seaports, and the long abandoned status of our airport if they love Rivers State and truly wants it to progress?
We believe that the media will do Rivers people a lot of good, if they hold every public office holder, including those at the Federal level to the same levels of scrutiny accountability.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with regards to Rivers State,as the media often speaks in muffled tones even when the political opposition goes to the extremity of using national institutions to undermine the authority of State Government, sabotage our security architecture, assault the national electoral system and intimidate the judiciary for self-seeking partisan goals.
Worse still, is the tacit, and sometimes, active support that they receive from the Federal Government in the execution of their nefarious actions to create a ‘governability crisis’ in the State in order to advance the vanishing fortunes of a dying opposition.
How else can we situate the active and virulent involvement of the Nigerian Police in rigging the legislative re-run elections that took place in the State in March and December 2016 in favour of the opposition All peoples Congress?
It is not offensively true that the Nigerian police has refused to investigate and prosecute those that were caught and arrested in the D/Line area of Port Harcourt for printing fake ballot papers with INEC’s authentic serial numbers to be used for the December 2016 re-run elections?
Similarly, why has the Federal Government refused to prosecute the State Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),Mr. Akin Fakorede, who was caught on tape and seen on national television brutalizing an electoral officer at a collation centrein furtherance of his partisan commitment to deliver fake results to the candidates of the All Progress Congress in the December 2016 rerun elections?
How can we accept the situation where an election tribunal discarded authentic results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, which is lawfully responsible for the management of elections, and in its place accepted fake results from the credibility-challenged Nigerian Police as the basis to provocatively award electoral victories to candidates of the All peoples Congress.
Unassailable facts have just emerged about how SARS under Akin Fakorode has become an organize criminal robbery gang in the State, yet the Inspector General of Police would simply dismiss such serious allegations with a wave of the hand because the victims are Rivers people who are not entitled do justice.
We do believe that these recurrent acts of impunity, political intimidation, economic sabotage, state repression, election rigging, and abuse of power are wrongs not only against Rivers State; they are wrongs against the entire country.
. We are only pretending we think that all is well with our country. The country is in crisis as poor governance, nepotism, marginalization and state-sponsored repression continue to do violence to nation unity and cohesion.
At times like this, the country needs forthright leadership and consensus building to steer the ship of state from the wrong direction it is headed to safer grounds.
Nigerians of goodwill must therefore call the Minister of Information to stop stoking the ambers of disharmony and divisions in the polity with his irresponsible utterances and wild allegations against members of opposition political parties.
Today, the clamour for political restructuring, fiscal federalism, State police and guarantees for free and fair elections have never been this determined across the country and will never go away. It is becoming clearer by the day that to ignore these calls is pretentiously dangerous to the unity and peaceful co-existence of this country.
But, history teaches us that freedom will never prevail unless those who long for it are willing and ready to insist upon its value and have the courage to speak out against what they know is wrong.
For some of us therefore, there is nothing nobler than being counted on this path and as long as God gives us breathe we shall remain in the trenches fighting for our democratic rights and freedoms until victory is ultimately achieved.
But, we also believe that this is a fight that should and must be led by the media for full effect and agenda setting. This calls for greater vigilance and courage in giving effective voice to the contending issues and taking personal responsibility for factuality.It can’t be otherwise.
At this point, while I appreciate the theme of this conference: balancing professionalism, advocacy and business, permit me to allow the experts to exhaustively deal with it to your ultimate benefit.
Suffice is to say that professionalism in any discipline enhances specialization, competence, commitment and productivity. You cannot jumble and ramble through different roles and be very successful as a journalist. But then, people have different reasons for entering into the profession and some of these motivations are not always idealistic.
Furthermore, while the media is expected to advance the public good, media owners must be in a position to meet the economic, financial and technical demands of managing an sustaining a reputable media outfit in the face of the competition occasioned by the explosion in the volume, complexity and speed of information.
The truth is that poor rewards or inadequate remunerations in media practice are capable of leading practitioners into passivity, and as you know, anything goes when there is no material motivation for human action.
On this note, it is my singular honourand privilege to heartily declare this conference open.
Thank you for your attention and may God bless us all.